When Special Agent Nick McFarlane receives news his partner of eight years in in trouble he doesn’t hesitate. Throwing himself into a deep cover operation to expose and shut down The Micahs, a child trafficking ring, Nick enters unprepared for the reality that awaits.
Special Agent Meredith Richards took the assignment fully aware of the consequences. Leaving her life behind, she wouldn’t be able to get out with her life until she shut the Micahs down for good.
When Meredith’s informant is murdered and her contact inside the organization starts to lose control, Meredith is forced to make choices she can’t take back. On the edge of sacrificing herself, her principles, and her life, she begins to wonder if she will survive the case or if she even wants too.
The flashing lights of first responders and local police bounced off the brick walls of a crumbling complex. The Federal Special Response Unit, led by Special Agent Nick McFarlane, arrived on scene ten minutes prior. Suiting up, McFarlane and Special Agent Meredith Richards silently counted to seven. At seven, they pushed into the decrepit apartment building, listening closely for any signs of life. Nick signaled left. Meredith nodded, taking the first door on the right. Pushing the door with her foot, heart pounding, Meredith cleared the room, finding no sign of the missing boy.
The boy, Kevin, nine years old, had been kidnapped and held for ransom four days prior. The agreed-upon exchange went south just hours before, and now they were out of time. An anonymous tip had led FSRU to this location. Meredith guessed it was an accomplice trying to clear their conscious. Meredith entered the hallway. Nick moved on to the third room. Meredith moved to the next room and heard a small whimper. She froze, her breath lying still in her chest. A cry of pain. Running toward the noise, she rounded the corner, surveying the open room. The smell of thick mildew hit her nose. Stacks of aging cardboard boxes, plenty of places to hide. Meredith took a step further into the room. The sound of gasping stopped her movement. All of her focus turned to a single box.
Meredith moved slowly, shifting the box out of her way.
Meredith moved slowly, shifting the box out of her way.
His face bloodied and bruised, he gasped for breath again.
"Nick!" Meredith rushed to the child's side, searching for the source of blood. She found a knife slice half across his neck and placed her hand over the wound. Hearing Nick stepping through the doorway and calling for an ambulance, Meredith turned. Their suspect stood over her partner with a gun. The man twitched nervously. He's going through withdrawal. This was all about the money. He’d kidnapped the boss's son for the fix. The kidnapper was so dazed by his success he let the gun sway. A gunshot went off. Meredith hit the floor, covering Kevin. The suspect fell, his gun discharged and Nick yelped in pain. Special Agent Hawthorne and Special Agent Alan Wright rushed in.
"Fuck! Goddamn it!" McFarlane cursed, Meredith released a breath, dashing out the door with Kevin in her arms.
Hang on baby, hang on...
The child's hand gripped her shirt tightly. Her legs couldn't move fast enough. The crisp city air hit her lungs and she vaulted down the stairs. The bus, or the short name for ambulance, was within sight. The pulling on her shirt lessened. Meredith couldn't breathe. Her stomach twisted painfully. Kevin's small body grew heavier in her arms. Laying the boy on the stretcher, it took everything in her to look at him.
His face covered in blood, his eyes stared back at her, clouded and lifeless. The paramedics immediately went to work, but she already knew he was gone.
Her heartbeat thundering in her head, the events around her hummed. She searched for relief, pleading for silence, peace. Nick walked out of the building with Hawthorne holding pressure on his shoulder and her heart ached again. Her gaze was resting on the stretcher. The paramedics pulled the sheet gingerly over the boy's body.
It's too much, too much...
Gasping for air, her carefully-bound control unraveling, she began breaking in half.
"Meredith," she heard someone say, but the voice seemed far away. "Meredith."
Everything moved back into real time, and a warm hand touch her arm. Special Agent Hawthorne, kind hazel eyes and rounded face, looked at her in concern, "Hey, you okay?"
Meredith anchored her pooling emotions down into her gut, away from her conscious mind. She couldn't let her team see her fall apart. "I'm good." The steadiness of her voice seemed to convince him, and the creases in his forehead smoothed. "Where's McFarlane?"
"Over there," Meredith followed Hawthorne's gaze. A paramedic wrapped McFarlane's shoulder in the back of an ambulance. She nodded her thanks.
"You okay?" Meredith asked, reaching the ambulance with her partner sitting in the back.
"Just a flesh wound." McFarlane glanced over the paramedic's work. "How's the boy?"
"He's–" the pain in her chest spiked. "They're still working on him." She focused on the area behind the ambulance, a small path of green in a world of concrete, desperate to still the creeping pain threatening to take over. McFarlane handed her a warm moist towel from the ambulance. Confused, Meredith looked down the sight of her blood-stained hands, catching the breath in her chest. Hands shaking, she wiped the blood away before tossing the towel into the ambulance.
McFarlane stayed silent. Special Agent Nick McFarlane, team lead, stood 6'4, broad shoulders, tight stance, everlasting 5'oclock shadow, and intense ice-blue eyes. Patiently waiting for her to give in and admit defeat, she refused. Her lips parted, with a prepared comment on their suspect, but his wordless gaze stopped her cold.
It was like hitting a brick wall when he looked at her like that–knowing what she's thinking without words. Having an eight-year history of seeing some of the worst scum on the earth created a wordless connection between colleagues. Her eyes brimmed with unshed tears at the exposure. Knowing she'd been caught. Angry at her own weakness, Meredith fought like hell to keep her composure intact. The guilt ripping through her unfettered, she dropped her chin in defeat.
Nick's consoling arm rested on her shoulders. He pulled her in, her forehead resting on his chest. In the small cocoon of his embrace, she pushed down the emotion threatening to take over.
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